The Whitsun Walk
The sunlight leaves patterns on my skin,
Flitting through branches, through hollows
Of shade and dim, as I tread that path
Where Whitsun boots crush bark and leaf.
At ten, my freshly ironed shirt whose collar
Digs in flesh, the sweat of summer gathers
Before running into tweed, a coat, for once
Brand new, with flecks of green and brown,
Like camouflage in games of war with uncle Pete
And cousin Joe. Then gathering up my breath,
proceed in glades with shades of sunlit beige,
As we sweep down the steepest bank into
The shadows of the track cut through the vale.
Our Whitsun walk, your steady hand that guides me,
As at last we reach the open field, wild flowers
Tumbling in soft breeze, the slightly rank
And deadened air of rutted track behind us now.
Ahead a quiet moment spent with you, before you’re gone
To whoever waits to take away, your breath,
Your kisses, not holding hands but grasping tight
Your thin pale skin, translucent now in sun,
But dulled in dark despair of ever knowing love.
A moan escapes, a tongue sweeps sweat from soft down
Upper lip, trembling. Such things I wished my mother
Never knew of life, just resting now upon
The chequered blanket, unwrapped from Nanny’s
Basket, that smells of apples, breadcrumbs and Marge.
You lie beneath me, propped up with stiff and
Tiny aches, a calf grazed, tingling still, from
Nettles, poisoned bites of mozzies circling round .
A stranger passing, a wave, a smile and greetings
Made. A northern thing, polite and kind, to take the time to
Say ‘How do” to strangers. No more no less
But pleasant still. You wave, a lazy smile, untroubled, safe,
An image soon that will recall our Whitsun walk,
The only one upon the mantle. Mum and me
Upon the grass. You a half a smile away,
and me squinting into light
Leaving patterns upon my skin, and you
Who left patterns upon my soul.